PETALING JAYA: Malaysia needs to take a more aggressive role in promoting the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) campaign against Israel, say pro-Palestinian groups.
Humanitarian Care Malaysia (MyCare) chairman Prof Dr Hafidzi Mohd Noor believes the country can use its influence in regional bodies to promote the campaign globally as foreign policy alone is not enough.
“The assumption is that because we have no diplomatic ties with Israel, there is no need to get involved in the BDS campaign.
“We must remember that we can have an influence through our membership in Asean, the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and even the United Nations.
“Our role is to encourage member countries of these blocs, which may have existing relations with Israel, to join the BDS movement for the sake of humanity,” he said ahead of an international conference on BDS at Universiti Malaya this Saturday.
Dr Hafidzi clarified that BDS was not an agenda against a specific race or religion, referring to the misconception among many Malaysians that it was targeted at the Jewish community.
“This is against an ideology that oppresses and terrorises innocent people. Whoever you are, if you support Israel’s Zionist regime, you will also be targeted by the boycott,” he said, adding that many Jews all over the world were in support of the campaign.
UM lecturer Prof Mohd Nazari Ismail, one of the speakers at the conference, said they would discuss how Malaysia can play a more active role in the campaign without jeopardising its own economic interests.
“The trade boycott against Israel has some way to go. For example, an international brand that supplies machines to destroy Palestinian homes has a local distributor in Malaysia.
“People are less mindful of such connections, so the aim of the conference is to find a solution that is best for the country and also the Palestinian cause,” he said.
The one-day conference titled 'BDS For Justice' will feature talks from prominent Palestinian rights advocates, including Electronicintifada.net co-founder Ali Hasan Abunimah, United States Palestinian rights activist Anna Baltzer, and Palestinian author and playwright Samah Sabawi.
Viva Palestina Malaysia (VPM) chairman Datuk Dr Musa Mohd Nordin said the BDS movement was the best tool to call Israel to account over its inhumane treatment of the Palestinians.
“It was BDS in South Africa that eventually brought down apartheid and led to the nation’s independence, so believe me, it works.
“There’s a lot Malaysia needs to do to catch up with the rest of the world, and it’s baby steps for now, but we are capable of going somewhere,” he said.
Dr Musa said that it was important for every Malaysian to make a small difference in their everyday lives so that BDS would have a far-reaching impact.
“I hope at the end of the conference, we can have a Malaysian team which will spearhead our BDS efforts locally,” he added.
Nazari noted that a complete boycott of Israel by the European Union had caused the country’s Zionist regime to lose nearly US$23bil in potential exports plus thousands of jobs.
“If they (Israel) are scared of what will happen to their economy, then they’ll have no choice but to listen to what the international community is saying,” he said.
Nazari, who heads the conference’s organising committee, added that several resolutions would be passed at the end of the conference and an action plan would be drafted for local organisations and activists to pursue BDS efforts.
The BDS campaign, which started in 2005, is a global movement to pressure Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian land.
It involves all-round sanctions in the form of consumer, economic, cultural, political, and academic boycotts against Israel.
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